Small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England saw significant increases in both new customers and orders during the final quarter of 2013, according to a new report.
The Business Factors Index, produced quarterly by independent business funder Bibby Financial Services, surveys 500 UK business owners across five industry sectors - manufacturing, construction, transport, wholesale and business services.
The latest report echoes the positive attitude towards the wider economic recovery and paints a picture of UK SMEs in the region benefiting from the increased national confidence.
During Q4 2013 one third of firms in the North reported an increase in orders, up from 21 per cent in Q3, and 41 per cent said they had seen more new customers over the period, which is up from 32 per cent in Q3.
A growing sense of optimism about the economy is also reflected in the rise in recruitment as one in five SMEs in the North say they have recruited new staff during Q4, up from 16 per cent in Q3, and one in ten are now trading overseas – the highest level across England and Wales.
Looking ahead, businesses in the region are planning for growth as the top three priorities include training and staff development (37 per cent), investment in assest such as buildings, vehicles etc (33 per cent) and improving back office functions to increase efficiency (31 per cent).